Sunday, 6 April 2008

Sunday Girl

We woke up this morning to every child's (and my husband's) dream - a half-decent covering of snow on the ground. Christopher was barely able to contain his excitement during breakfast, then he was straight out into the garden to throw snowballs and (inexplicably) carry small buckets full of snow from one side of the garden to the other. James was intrigued by it all, though rather suspicious and apt to break down in tears if any snow got too close to him!

I really started cooking again today, having had the best part of two weeks off family meal-duty (what with all our various gallivanting around). A Sunday dinner was a good place to start, and really, what could we want more on a cold evening than a warming chicken stew with lemon-spiked dumplings and a chocolate pudding to follow?

I can't really bring myself to type out a 'recipe' for this stew; as you do with stews, I just threw it all together. I browned some free-range, corn-fed chicken legs, added leeks, carrots and potatoes, then cooked it slowly, for a couple of hours, with a splash of vermouth and some chicken stock. My recipe for dumplings is here, though today I added the zest of a lemon, used its juice to bind the dough and used fresh parsley instead of the dried herbs. Half an hour before we ate, I threw in some halved green beans and added the dumplings to the pan.

Now, this pudding I'm very proud of. Chocolate puddings can be a real problem, balancing richness with a need to stand up again and sweetness with wanting the children to get some sleep tonight. This pudding fulfils the brief well, as most of the really sweet and rich part comes from the accompanying Choco-Fudge Sauce. The ginger may seem unconventional and, it's true, the pudding doesn't taste much of ginger - but it does have an indefinable warmth that a pudding without the added spice lacks.

Choc-Choc Pudding with Choco-Fudge Sauce

I cook this in my pressure cooker but, if you don't have one, steam the pudding for an hour and a half.

100g butter
30g golden syrup
100g light muscovado sugar

Melt together in a pan, then remove from the heat and allow to cool to blood temperature.

150ml milk
1 egg

200g self-raising flour
25g cocoa powder
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch bicarbonate of soda

Mix the dry ingredients together, then beat the milk and egg into the cooled butter mixture. Add the flour etc., to the pan and stir throughly until everything is well combined. Pour the mixture into a well-greased 1.2 litre pudding basin, cover with foil and tie tightly. In a pressure cooker, steam for 10 minutes, then cook for 25 minutes. Otherwise, steam over hot water for an hour and a half.

As I've mentioned above, the crowning glory of this pudding is my Choco-Fudge Sauce. I make this, rather lazily, by melting three Mars bars with 150ml double cream. It's extremely good for dressing up this rather plain chocolate pudding (and others), for pouring over ice-cream or for dipping fruit and marshmallows into as a 'chocolate fondue'. Not that children, in my experience, need much encouragement to eat fruit, but sometimes it's fun to get in a mess just for the sake of it. Anyway, you know by now that I'm a hands-on sort of girl, don't you?

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